Barnfather v London Borough of Islington Education Authority, Secretary of State for Education and Skills: QBD 7 Mar 2003

The appellant was convicted of the crime of being a parent whose child had failed to attend school regularly. She challenged saying that the offence required no guilty act on her part, but was one of strict liability, and contrary to her human rights.
Held: Although the offence is one of strict liability, there is no reversal of the burden of proof. Article 6(2) has no bearing on the reduction or elimination of mens rea requirements, and is therefore compatible with offences of strict or even absolute liability. The section engaged article 6.2 but was compliant. Authorities should however be careful before exercising their discretion to prosecute.
Elias J said: ‘I recognise that the penalties are small, being only a fine, and that is a factor which can properly be considered when determining whether an offence of strict liability is justified. However, in my opinion there is nonetheless a real stigma attached to being found guilty of a criminal offence of this nature. It suggests either an indifference to one’s children, or incompetence at parenting, which in the case of the blameless parent will be unwarranted.’
Mr Justice Elias, The Honourable Mr Justice Mackay
[2003] EWHC 418 (Admin), Times 20-Mar-2003, [2003] 1 WLR 2318
Education Act 1996 444(1), European Convention on Human Rights 6.2
England and Wales
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Cited by:
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Updated: 09 January 2021; Ref: scu.179544